Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope for 2011 and Beyond

I officially endorsed Dennis Kucinich for president way back in August. Oddly, this has yet to create the groundswell of support I had hoped for. If, like me, you've watched in dismay as Obama supported the ed deformers and the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers, you may want to think about supporting Kucinich in 2012.

Watch the video below. Try to imagine this man supporting an extension of the Bush tax cuts. See if you can picture him cheering the firing of the staff of an entire school, appointing Wall Street bankers to his administration, or continuing the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are still some true progressives out there. Dennis is one.

Happy New Year, all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Teachers to Blame for Snowmageddon, says Bloomie

Seeking to quell the rumor, started by fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, that the snow removal fiasco was the fault of a sanitation worker slowdown, Mayor Bloomberg today placed the blame for the snowy mess squarely at the feet of the teachers' union.

"As everyone knows, we never close the schools, no matter how much it snows," said the perpetually annoyed Bloomberg. "Had the schools been open, we would have moved heaven and earth, along with a lot of snow, to make sure that the roads were plowed. The UFT, of course, seeking to shortchange our schools, decided to go on winter break just as the storm hit, leaving sanitation workers little reason to clear the streets."

The mayor's comments come on the heels of Cathie Black's decision to open the schools in the midst of the snowstorm. Black betrayed her dismay that not a single teacher nor student showed up. "I mean, it's like, so frustrating, you know? If they worked for my magazines I could have had them flogged, or reamed them out in a meeting. But this union just gets my panties in a bunch. Oooo they make me so mad. Grrrr."

UFT president Michael Mulgrew responded angrily. "It's unbelievable that the city blames teachers for their fouls ups. Teachers are under no obligation to show up or shovel while on vacation. At least not until the new contract. Hey, did I say that out loud? I thought it was in my head!"

Meanwhile, after being cleared to become the chancellor in January, Cathie Black sought to quell rumors that she was the doppelganger of the Grinch. "It's utter nonsense," said Black, as she stood in the snow, tapping her pointy green shoe.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cut Mayor4Life a Break Already!

C'mon, people! I know that in a dire emergency, people feel the need to place blame somewhere. Almost all of the blame for Snowmageddon 2010 has gone to Mike Bloomberg, our hard working mayor. But really, what could he have done about it? This storm was not in his control, and he's a tad too old to get himself a shovel and help out, as his fellow mayor Cory Booker did in Newark. It's not his fault that his street was plowed out by 3PM Monday down to the blacktop, while many NYers, myself included, have yet to see a snow plow. Someone has got to get plowed first, and it just makes sense that it's the mayor instead of low life scum like you and me.

The truth is, no matter what you think of Bloomberg, it seems unfair that after 8 years as mayor he will be judged by this one measure, much of which was out of his control. Surely he has done some good in this city, his education policies notwithstanding. This Mini-Katrina, while bad, should not define his mayoralty, should it?

On an unrelated note, it's likely that we will have a ruling on the release of the Teacher Data Reports this week. For those unfamiliar with the TDRs, they attempt to rate the work a teacher has done for the entire year on the results of a single test. This is fair, because rating teachers on a single measure while most of the variables, such as poverty, homelessness, and truancy, are out of his or her control just makes sense.

While I wait for the ruling, I may go out and shovel some more in hopes of getting my car out some time in 2010.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Schools Open Today, "Chancellor" Announces

In her first major decision as presumptive "chancellor", Cathie Black announced today that despite the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on NYC, public schools would be open today.

When reminded that schools are closed until 1/3/11 for the holidays, Cathie Black snapped back, "New York City has a long history of keeping schools open despite blizzards. We're not going to let little things like the union contract and school calendars stand in the way of our children's education. It's all about the children. Well, not my children, of course, but you get the idea."

Contacted in his beach cabana in Bermuda for comment, Mayor Bloomberg slammed his coconut shell cocktail down on a table and fumed, "This is another example of teachers trying to do what's best for themselves rather than putting children first. I believe I have full legal authority to open the schools. Do I have mayoral control of the schools or not? If I can appoint a bimbo like Cathie as chancellor, I can open the schools when I want."

UFT president Michael Mulgrew voiced his displeasure with the unilateral decision. "I don't think it's right, but Ms. Black is the new chancellor and I have vowed to work with her despite her utter ignorance of the school system. Besides, the UFT has long fought for smaller class sizes, and I'm urging teachers to look at this as an opportunity to work one on one with kids. Literally."

In keeping with revised tenure rules, which call for new teachers to make "contributions to the school and community", untenured teachers will be called upon to dig out the cars of all the administrators in their respective schools in order to assure a smooth opening.

Asked whether she believes any students will actually show up, Cathie Black responded, "I certainly hope so. I'm looking at this blizzard as a teachable moment. Ooo...I love using education jargon! Anyway, you can bet the janitors at Hearst Publishing will be at work today or on the unemployment line tomorrow. Our students need to learn the harsh realities of the corporate world we are training them for."

To her credit, Ms. Black vowed not to repeat the mistake of her predecessor, Joel Klein, who bungled school bus routes so badly that many young children were stranded in the snow. "Rather than wait for buses that may never come, parents may call their child's school and request a piggy back ride to school for their children. Untenured teachers will be more than happy to oblige, unless they want to remain untenured, if you get my drift."

Michael Mulgrew initially expressed outrage at using new teachers as pack horses, but backed down when told that Ms. Black offered to increase next year's Teacher's Choice allocation by two dollars to a whopping $112 so that piggy backing teachers can buy an extra pair of wooly socks. "In these fiscal times, socks are nothing to sneeze at. This is a major win for the union!" Mulgrew announced.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Farewell to the Grinch

Wishing all of you a happy holiday, here's a traditional Christmas rant that will be far outdated by next year with the advent of a new chancellor. So here's one last posting about Klein, as I wait for the door to hit him as he exits.

The Klein Who Stole Tenure

Align Left
Every teacher in Schoolville loved tenure a lot,
But the Klein, who worked in Tweed Courthouse, did not.
The Klein hated tenure! He thought it a cancer!
Now please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the answer.
It could be that a teacher once called HIM a dunce,
Or he got pelted with spitballs when he tried teaching once,
But I think the most likely reason of all,
May be that he knows nothing about teaching at all!

But whatever his reason for hating the teachers,
What he hated more, was one of the features,
Of the UFT contract that stood undiminished.
Despite 2005, he still wasn’t finished.
He knew the one hope, to which teachers could cling,
Could be dashed if he could destroy one more thing.
For every three years, despite all his jive,
Some teachers in Schoolville still managed to thrive.
And when they survived, it was tenure they got,
And this twisted the Klein’s BVDs in a knot!

“How COULD they get tenure?” Klein snarled with a sneer.
“After all I’ve thrown at them, why are they still here?
I don’t pay them enough and I make them feel small.
I’ve cut Teacher’s Choice down to nothing at all!
I give them lunch duty and potty patrol,
Sufficient to sear the hardiest soul!
And if that wasn’t enough to anger the staff,
I piled on thirty seven minutes—and a HALF!

They read to the children on germ-ridden rugs!
And share cafeterias with rodent-sized bugs!
Bulletin boards, walkthroughs, unsatisfactory ratings!
TAN notebooks, portfolios, PD unabating!
Acuity! ARIS! And monthly staff meetings!
Only a masochist smiles through such beatings!
Such horrible things! I don’t think I can top them!
Yet still they get tenure! Is there no way to stop them?”

And then he got an idea.
The Klein got a terrible, awful idea.
“I think,” the Klein chuckled, “I can end this whole mess,
If I can finagle support from the press!
But I’ll need an accomplice as heartless as me!”
So he called up his old bulldog pal from DC.
And together the Klein saddled up with the Rhee,
And declared war on tenure with malevolent glee.

Rhee’s taught for 2 years, and Klein less than one,
But has that stopped this duo? No, they’ve hardly begun!
Armed with three years of classroom experience between them.
They’ve set upon teachers, hell bent to demean them.
With data most spurious and a press most incurious,
The Klein and the Rhee hope to make parents furious,
So they’ll call for tenure to come to an end!
Are we going to allow this to happen, my friend?

I wish I could tell you the Klein’s heart has grown,
Or the Rhee’s tiny ticker was not made of stone,
Or the laughter of children would melt their exteriors,
Or the voters would finally boot their posteriors.
But unless the teachers in Schoolville take action,
And finally begin voicing their dissatisfaction,
The Kleins and the Rhees will most surely banish
Our tenure, and the last of our rights will just vanish.


Friday, December 10, 2010

"Chancellor" Black and Blue

You might have read about the riot that occurred at Murry Bergtraum HS when a misguided principal decided to close the bathrooms in response to a fight. I'm not going to comment on the actions of the principal or the students. I would like to say that things like this are more common than the public realizes.

I've been teaching a while, and I've broken up my fair share of fights, much like my blogging pal Chaz. (Hint to newbies: Don't try this at home, or at work.) One time, a student shoved me into a chalkboard. Another time, I took a knife away from a student with nothing more than a stare. I don't expect kudos for these things; I'm simply stating that events like these are a fact of life in many public schools in NYC.

Michael Bloomberg and "Chancellor" Cathie Black would have it that teachers should be judged on Teacher Data Reports that allegedly take into account all kinds of factors. I don't know how they factor in working at a school in which the students riot, or carry knives, or beat each other, or curse out teachers, or kick them and cause miscarriages, but the city claims they can do it.

I'm more skeptical. Until you've worked in a dangerous school, you don't really know how difficult it is to teach in one. That's how I came up with the Bergtraum Solution as a way of settling, once and for all, whether those Teacher Data Reports should be released.

You see, Bergtraum is a high school for business careers. As such, handling the students there should be a piece of cake for someone as forceful as former business maven Cathie Black. So I propose that we ask Cathie to stand in the middle of the main floor of Bergtraum while the principal announces that they have decided to close the bathrooms permanently. She'll only have to stand there long enough for one change of classes to occur. She doesn't even have to teach anything. If she can do that, then we should stop opposing the release of the TDRs.

If, as I suspect, she runs out screaming as if her hair were on fire, or she's carried out on a stretcher, then she has to drop the TDR matter immediately and admit that there's more to teaching in NYC than any statistician could ever account for.

I suspect the "Chancellor" will find the Bergtraum Solution less than appealing. She doesn't even have the courage to face real reporters, much less the adolescents of the schools she'd like to shutter. I'm sure she'll stick to well managed elementary schools where she can comment on the cute "little people" there.

She'll never go a dangerous NYC school, lest she become the punchline to the joke, "What's Black, and white, and black and blue, and red all over?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cathie Black is the Head Cheese

In the classic Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python, a hapless patron wants a bit of cheese. He asks the cheese shop owner, the jovial Mr. Wensleydale, whether he has any one of a staggering number of cheeses. Mr. Wensleydale doesn't have any. Then the duo conduct the following exchange (which you can catch at 4:30 of the video, although watching it all is a treat):

Patron: It's not much of a cheese shop, is it?
Mr. Wensleydale: Finest in the district, sir.
Patron: And what leads you to that conlusion?
Mr. Wensleydale: Well, it's so clean.
Patron: Well, it's certainly uncontaminated by cheese.

The joke, of course, is that the shop owner is covering up how worthless his store is by pointing out its cleanliness rather than its utility.

"Chancellor" Cathie Black is the Mr. Wensleydale of education. In an interview with the Daily News, "Chancellor" Black said she was "bowled over" by the cleanliness of the schools she visited. She is demonstrating, in no uncertain terms, how worthless her chancellorship will be. She could have talked about any one of the dozens of things that a person with a background in education would notice. Instead, here's how the interview with the "Chancellor" probably went:

Interviewer: Did you notice anything about curriculum?
Black: No.
Interviewer: Did you notice anything about learning environments?
Black: No..
Interviewer: Did you notice anything about the quality of instruction?
Black: Huh?
Interviewer: These school visits didn't teach you anything, did they?
Black: They were all wonderful schools!
Interviewer: And what leads you to that conclusion?
Black: Well, they're all so clean!

I don't know about clean, but they're certainly uncontaminated by chancellors who know what they hell they're doing.

And I won't even go into the incredibly condescending nature of her comments. What did Ms. Black think she was going to find in public schools? Landfills? Cooties?

Perhaps we should excuse her there. After all, she sent her own children to swanky private schools which were probably scrubbed clean by the kind of low wage workers she'd like to make out of the children of NYC. By firing experienced teachers, increasing class sizes, and doubling down on the failed Klein experiment, she'll have a virtually inexhaustible supply of menial workers for her rich friends.

But she still won't have any cheese.